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English Premier League

Premier League Top 4 and Midtable: The ever reducing gap



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In his book, World Politics, A.F.K. Organski posited that power transition theory has international politics as a hierarchy to be viewed as a pyramid with the most dominant nations at the top and with an unchallenged hegemony and self serving status quo and great powers behind who are the most likely challengers to the dominant power. They are followed by a lot of bottom feeders who subscribe to the existing status quo and are referred to as ‘weak states’, these weak states can rise through the pyramid and challenge the dominant power’s status quo.

The machtpolitik in the Premier League makes for juicy viewing, there exists a cadre of super clubs of which Manchester United are the sole representatives from England which includes Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munchen. Below these are the noeveau riche and traditional clubs including Arsenal, Chelsea and Paris St Germain. There’s an order reminiscent of Freemasonry and it is very hard to break the glass ceiling to progress, see but don’t touch, the Premier League’s bottom feeders are shattering this myth hammer and tongs, in no small part due to the new television money.

The very elite players in Europe don’t match to the number of emerging ‘supposed elite’ clubs and this creates a supply and demand problem, everyone wants a white unicorn and everyone misses out on the speckled stallion at the back of the stable. Genuine world class players are few and far apart, mostly they all play for Bayern Munchen, Barcelona and Real Madrid, the rest of the clubs have a sprinkling or two of quality stardust but they crave their neighbors healthy Kales. Manchester United want Ramos and Muller, Arsenal want Benzema, City might or might not want Pedro but they have been linked, Madrid want De Gea. The common theme in this cycle is the three clubs where all the other clubs seek to shop. The talent drain from the Premier League is a constant, Suarez and Ronaldo to name just two; any genuine stars are linked to the three clubs and in exchange the Premier League asks for it’s discarded albeit top performing stars like Angel Di Maria, Alexis Sanchez and Cesc Fabregas all in one summer. This has created an insurmountable gap; the three super clubs have held the rest of the competition at an arms length, members only.

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When inevitably the top teams in the Premier League settle for high performing B-list players they squabble and scrum with the high functioning mid table teams who know their level and do their ultimately fruitful shopping early. The overall consequence is that, the quality gap between mid table English teams and their top four counterparts is closing more furiously than envisioned. Andre Ayew would fill a need at United, Yohann Cabaye would seamlessly slot in at Chelsea alongside Nemanja Matic and free Fabregas to beguile further forward and he would immediately solve an itch for Arsenal. Xherdan Shaqiri would stroll beach towel and sunscreen in tow into the Liverpool and Tottenham starting eleven, Georginio Wijnaldum’s boundless energy would add more quality to City than anything Fabian Delph can muster but he resides in Geordie-land, Salamon Rondon would happily fill the second striker role at Old Trafford or even challenge the club Captain but he’s a baggie, Gokhan Inler would have his pick of Manchester City or Arsenal but the tinker man has him instead.

The quality of managers that the top tier teams can pull is the only separating difference on the field, devoid of club stature and club value and this is what will probably keep the top four untouchable. But on the pitch the technical quality of the players mano a mano is neck and neck. Clubs in limbo like Liverpool, Tottenham and Everton who are a class above midtable but several classes below the top four are at the greatest risk, with clubs like Chelsea and Manchester City now enjoying an established niche added onto United and Arsenal they might just disappear over the horizon. While clubs like Southampton, Swansea and Stoke, firmly relegation favorites a while ago but now defiant, bullish, even arrogant mid table sides and with their sights firmly trained on the carrot that is the top four and furiously proactive in the market, Liverpool and fellow associates might just be caught in the whirlwind and flushed even further down the uncertainty abyss.

The mid table clubs are responding in kind, while it would have been a more plausible scenario if the top four were getting superior quality from abroad or within, this is not the case and the ‘weak clubs’ are dredging up more than their fair share of gems downstream while the top four unsuccessfully try to catch Trout upstream in the volatile, rushing waters. It might take a while before the gap is closed but the divide that was once a grand canyon is now but a stone hops away. Parity is being achieved and the top clubs can feel the heat of the stove door just opened, they can see the glaring headlights of the proletariat, mid table nuisance of clubs cannoning off their rearview mirrors, it’s Mad Max Fury Road.

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Jack Wilshere’s injury shows why Arsenal shouldn’t renew his contract

The 26-year-old has been struck down by yet another injury.

Jake Jackman



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Jack Wilshere will be pleased with the progress that he has made since returning to Arsenal from his loan spell at Bournemouth.

He was initially nothing more than a squad player that was out in the cold at international level too, but the midfielder worked hard to gain more game-time in North London.

Across all competitions, he has played more than 30 matches and his form earned him a call-up to the England squad.

It looked like he was getting a once-promising career back on track, but almost like clockwork, he has suffered an injury to set him back once again.

Gareth Southgate confirmed that he wouldn’t be travelling to the Netherlands for Friday’s match and the quotes were reported by Sky Sports.

“It is not a specific injury and over time they flare up and they need to settle down over a couple of days.

“We are hopeful it will settle down pretty quickly. It’s an ongoing problem and it’s not something new for him. He’s very disappointed not to be involved in the game.

“He’s trained well though but if you think about the journey he’s had in the last two years and his big injuries then he’s progressing really well.”

Although it is encouraging that it isn’t a serious injury, it is a reminder that Jack Wilshere remains a risk for both club and country.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is difficult to build a team around a player that is susceptible to miss matches and the quote from Southgate is a worry as he refers to an ongoing problem.

Arsenal have had a difficult campaign and they will be planning a rebuild over the next 48 months as they transition away from the Arsene Wenger era.

They will have to make tough decisions on many players at the club and Wilshere’s future will be brought into focus over the next few weeks as his contract expires at the end of the season.

There have been numerous reports regarding contract talks between the two parties and there is hesitancy on both sides.

This latest injury suffered by Wilshere and the comments from Southgate referring to an ongoing problem show why it is Arsenal who need to end this association.

Wilshere can’t be relied on to stay fit and to feature prominently in a busy schedule. Arsenal will have ambitions of challenging at the very top of the game and will likely be involved in European competition every season. They need to have a squad of players that are reliable and the 26-year-old isn’t that.

Aside from that, Wilshere represents what Arsenal have become over the last decade. He is a player that had a lot of potential, but he has failed to fulfil it and been very inconsistent at the highest level. Of course, he isn’t to blame for the club’s problems, but he is also unlikely to offer the solutions.

This season has been a nice farewell campaign for him. It would have been sad if his Gunners’ career had ended after being shipped out on loan to Bournemouth.

He has returned to earn some of his credibility back, but the club need to move on and progress if they are to get back to the top of the English game.

A lot of contentious decisions will need to be made and the first should be the release of Jack Wilshere this summer.

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Manchester United

Why Jose Mourinho’s treatment of Luke Shaw has crossed the line

The Portuguese manager has been highly critical of Luke Shaw this season.

Rob Meech



Luke Shaw
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The fractious relationship between Jose Mourinho and Luke Shaw plumbed new depths when the left-back was substituted at half-time in Manchester United’s FA Cup victory over Brighton & Hove Albion. The 22-year-old had been handed a rare opportunity to impress at Old Trafford but lasted only 45 minutes.

Speaking about Shaw in his post-match interview, Mourinho said: “Luke, in the first half, every time they came in his corridor, the cross came in and a dangerous situation was coming. I was not happy with his performance.”

The differences between the pair now appear to be irreconcilable. Shaw, who was signed by Louis van Gaal in the summer of 2014, has been used sparingly by Mourinho. The former Southampton starlet has made just 18 Premier League appearances under the Portuguese in a career that has been blighted by injuries.

Being substituted at half-time is almost as embarrassing as it gets for a player and Shaw’s mood will not have improved after being publicly criticised by his manager. It’s certainly not the first time Mourinho has chosen to talk candidly to the media about his concerns with the 22-year-old.

(Photo by Michael Regan/Getty Images)

Some players require an arm around the shoulder to perform at their peak, while for others it takes a kick up the backside. Mourinho, opting for the latter, does nothing without reason and has clearly tried to spark a reaction from Shaw, without success.

From being one of English football’s brightest prospects after making his World Cup debut aged just 18, Shaw, who has seven England caps to his name, is in danger of not fulfilling the potential that convinced United to spend what was then a world-record fee for a teenager.

Mourinho’s tactic of singling out individuals who have not met his standards is in stark contrast to Sir Alex Ferguson, who never blamed his players in public. It has divided opinion among pundits, with Southampton legend Matt Le Tissier claiming the United manager is ‘destroying’ Shaw.

Mourinho is an expert at using smokescreens to distract from his side’s unconvincing performances. And this latest controversy has moved the narrative on from United’s shock Champions League exit at the hands of Sevilla.

(Photo by Lindsey Parnaby/Getty Images)

Tough love is one thing, but the sustained, public attack on Shaw is unacceptable. If Mourinho genuinely believes he is not good enough to represent United, then fair enough. But to continually vilify the youngster’s performances is a step too far and one that could irreparably damage Shaw’s confidence.

This is not to say that Shaw is a completely innocent bystander. Mourinho’s predecessor, Louis van Gaal, also questioned his desire and general conditioning when he joined United four years ago. Indeed, the Dutchman signed Shaw up to a tailored exercise regime in an effort to improve his fitness.

But while van Gaal’s treatment had the desired effect, Mourinho’s has done the opposite. Being publicly humiliated on a routine basis does neither party any favours.

In all likelihood, Shaw’s disappointing United career will come to an end this summer. A fresh start away from the toxicity under Mourinho is exactly what he needs.

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English Premier League

Keanan Bennetts has perfect opportunity to impress Mauricio Pochettino this week

The left-sided star has a chance to impress in first-team training during the international break.



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With the international week in full flow, plenty of teams in the Premier League have seen their squads diminished by call-ups to national teams.

Tottenham Hotspur are one such side. Nonetheless, with most of the first-team squad away with their respective nations, work continues at Hotspur Way.

In order for Spurs to have a full complement in training, plenty of young talent needs to be pulled in to the ranks.

Mauricio Pochettino will, therefore,e get a chance to see some of his young players training with regular first-team players such as Fernando Llorente, Erik Lamela and Lucas Moura.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

One player who will be training with the first-team this week is talented wide-man Keanan Bennetts, according to London Live.

The 19-year-old left-winger has been catching the eye for the club’s youth team in recent weeks, making the news after scoring a fantastic goal for the under-19s against Monaco in the UEFA Youth League last month.

Bennetts has also been attracting interest for his positional dexterity. The wide-man has played at left-back in recent times and it could be that is his future best position.

This week he will be up against some excellent players such as Lamela and Moura, who did not receive selection to the Argentina and Brazil national teams, respectively.

If he can prove himself with this calibre of player, Pochettino will have to take notice.

(Photo by Catherine Ivill/Getty Images)

It is coming to a point in his Tottenham career when Bennetts has to make such an impact. The teenager is out of contract at Spurs in the summer and needs to ensure he is kept on for at least one more season.

Tottenham fans who follow the youth teams are certain he is deserving of such a chance. If he can show Pochettino what he is capable of this week, then a new deal will surely be in the pipeline for the talented wide-man.

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